Saturday, July 25, 2009

War Damage-Elizabeth Wilson

War Damage
Elizabeth Wilson
Serpent Tail, Sep 1 2009, $14.95
ISBN: 9781846686504

In 1949, ballet critic Freddie Buckingham leaves a party hosted by socialite Regine Milner and begins walking across Hampstead Heath when he is shot to death. The police investigate the homicide.

Detective Chief Inspector Plumer and Detective Sergeant Murray quickly find a horde of people with motives to kill overtly homosexual Freddie. People from his personal life and his professional life with grudges against him seem everywhere. Even the hostess with the mostest is considered a suspect. However, none from the performing arts, the homosexuals, the bohemians, politicians or starving socialites stand out from anyone else. All seem to have in common a refrain of rejoicong that Freddie’s dead.

This is an exhilarating post WWII police procedural that has a Noir feel to it, but no detective is hard boiled; the Noir comes from the atmosphere of the “Heath” and London in 1949 as unexploded bombs remain from the war, buildings are derelict and damaged but people reside in them, and the gritty dark fog enhances every step of the plot. Aptly titled WAR DAMAGE is everywhere. Although the introduction to just about all the party goers seems overwhelming at first, fans will enjoy this fine historical whodunit as Freddie’s death enables Elizabeth Wilson to provide a tour of the war torn city.

Harriet Klausner